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Lightning journal: Vinik pushing for outdoor game

What you need to know from Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's Q&A at Fan Fest, an update on five players placed on waivers and an update from Monday's practice.
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said he is pushing for an outdoor game in Tampa and the NHL is close to allowing one. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said he is pushing for an outdoor game in Tampa and the NHL is close to allowing one. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published Sep. 24, 2018

As he sat back in his chair facing the stands in the middle of the two benches, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik could not help but remember the first time he sat there.

A young Steven Stamkos sat next to him as he spoke in front of a crowd of about 30 people.

"We're going to change this," Vinik recalled thinking to himself.

And they did, if Sunday was any indication. Vinik spoke these words in front of not 30 fans, but thousands who attended Lightning Fan Fest at Amalie Arena.

10,164 to be exact.

Vinik, GM Julien BriseBois and a couple of players sat on the high chairs placed on a platform in between the two benches as he partook in a question and answer session with thousands of fans in attendance. The first session that included Vinik and BriseBois was open only to season ticket holders.

Here is what you need to know:

• An outdoor hockey game in Tampa is more than a dream. There is a legitimate chance it happens, if you ask Vinik. It might sound crazy to have an outdoor ice rink in Florida, but Vinik thinks Tampa can host an NHL game outside. The game would likely be played in the middle of February, a time in which Vinik said there's only about a 5 to 10 percent chance that weather would be problematic. The game would be scheduled on a Saturday, so that if rain and humidity did affect it, they could push the game back to Sunday. Vinik wants to do all he can to make it work. It's something he has pushed for years. He held his pointer finger and thumb less than an inch away from each other when he discussed how close the league is to giving Tampa the go-ahead.

• The Lightning places a lot of value in having an East Coast Hockey League affiliate in Orlando. Tampa Bay entered into a three-year deal with the Orlando Solar Bears this offseason, giving the Lightning a nearby presence in the league a tier below the American Hockey League. Vinik sees this affiliation as a prime opportunity to grow the game in another part of Florida that has shown interest in the Lightning. Vinik said the Lightning's TV ratings in Orlando are "quite good."

• Amalie Arena is in the process of upgrading its food and beverage options somewhat this season, but especially next season, Vinik said. There is no big ongoing project at Amalie Arena right now, though Vinik said to expect some tweaks. But he allowed that there could be major renovations between 2020 and 2025.

• There could be a rule change coming to the NHL power play in the next couple of seasons. The rule change: If you go on the power play, you get to pick which face-off circle the ensuing face-off will take place. Other levels have tried it, and BriseBois said the AHL is voting this week on if it will use the new rule this year. That could serve as a testing ground. If players like it, it could reach the NHL as soon as next season.

Five Lightning training camp cuts clear waivers

On Sunday, the Lightning placed five players on waivers as it cut down its training camp roster to 28. On Monday, all five cleared waivers. That list included Andy Andreoff, Gabriel Dumont, Edward Pasquale, Carter Verhaeghe and Cameron Gaunce. AHL Syracuse opens its camp Tuesday. Expect most, if not all, of those five players to be on the Crunch roster.

Practice report

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday that he does not expect Tyler Johnson to play the rest of the preseason. He and BriseBois remain optimistic that Johnson will be ready to go when the Lightning faces the Panthers on Oct. 6. Johnson missed practice Sunday because of an upper-body injury. He injured himself earlier in the week in practice.

Monday was the first practice with 28 players, five away number to start the season. Here are the lines the Lightning ran in practice:

Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos, J.T. Miller
Andrej Palat, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov
Adam Erne, Mitchell Stephens, Danick Martel
Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, Cory Conacher
Alexander Volkov, Cedric Paquette, Mathieu Joseph